If you have begun language learning or are considering learning a language or if you are currently learning, some of these facts will open your eyes.
Language learning takes time, a lot of time
In order to progress from one level to the next, it takes about 200 hours of guided study. What that means is that if you are a beginner, you can expect to spend 200 hours in classes in order to achieve the next level of upper beginner. Doing the maths, if you are a beginner, you can expect to spend between 1,000 and 1,200 hours of directed study in order to achieve an advanced level. If you think about it in terms of the amount of time you will need in order to achieve that level, with one hour per week, it should take about 3 years to learn a language from beginner to advanced. If you want to go quicker then 2 hours per week without fail, and you could master a language in the space of 1 and a half years.
Why does it take so long and is there a faster way?
It takes time to learn academic subjects such as astrophysics and history. It takes time to learn mathematics and it takes time to study law. These subjects involve learning a lot of terminology and signification. In language learning you have to learn, you have to learn a lot, you have to familiarize yourself with words and those words have to fit into the concepts. There is no short-cut, there is no fast way. The only way you can make it faster is by putting in more time and effort.
What can you do to go faster?
Just as an athlete will run faster by training harder and for longer periods of time, a language student will learn faster by training harder and for longer periods of time. Athletes have to endure pain in order to achieve their aims. They have inner motivation and they are goal oriented. They achieve great things because they put in the time and dedication, they do their exercises every day and they take every chance to put themselves to the test, they push themselves in real situations.
How can I find a teacher that will teach me the language in a few lessons?
Teachers are there to present information for you. Your journey will take more than 1,000 hours whichever teacher you choose. Taking 10 lessons will not take you from basic to advanced level, taking 100 will not take you from beginner to advanced either. Taking lessons with a good teacher should provide you with some good materials to work with and a person who will listen to your efforts and who will give you corrections when you are wrong. If you have picked a good teacher you will have found someone who is patient and is able to follow your progress and who will motivate you. A good teacher is like a good coach. The coach will tell the athlete get down and give me 50 press-ups and run around the track 5 times and tomorrow you will do 60 press-ups and run around 6 times. Now, a fantastic teacher is a teacher who will do press-ups with you and run with you all the way around. A really good teacher is someone who has the time and cares for your spirits while you are making the effort.
It's up to you, not the teacher
It is a false assumption that by paying someone, you will be guaranteed to get the skills that they have. Many students make the mistake that simply by turning up to class, they will somehow absorb the language. In a number of countries around the world there exists a false belief that by bribing or paying more money, you can get anything without making any effort. There is also the belief in some walks of life or periods of life that simply by showing up to the class knowledge will be acquired, or that because a teacher might possess academic qualifications or charge a lot more than other teachers that the student will learn a lot faster than with teachers who don't. This again is a false belief.
Teachers and other teachers
Teachers who have attained high level academic qualifications and long years of experience are merely teachers. They have put in much effort to get those qualifications, they have shown dedication and sacrifice in order to do so. They have learnt a lot and have a likelihood of understanding what it means to be a student with high ambitions. Teachers should be judged on the following criteria: what they know, what they know about teaching, and how they make you feel.
How long does it take then?
CEFR Level Cambridge English Exam Number of Hours (approximate)
C2 Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE) 1,000—1,200
C1 Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) 700—800
B2 Cambridge English: First (FCE) 500—600
B1 Cambridge English: Preliminary (PET) 350—400
A2 Cambridge English: Key (KET) 180—200 *(Note, these times are for active or direct study, with the proper materials and preparation.)
Here is a list of things to consider about your learning and your teacher:
It takes a certain number of hours to learn.
It takes a certain amount of effort to learn.
Your teacher has been a student for many years.
Your teacher knows what it feels like to learn.
Your teacher is not responsible for your learning.
You are responsible for your learning.
Your teacher has sympathy for you and wants you to succeed.
A good teacher will be like a good coach.
Take responsibility for your own learning.
You remember that movie the Matrix, don't you? Neo and Trinity and Morpheus, weren't they cool. In a fantasy fiction, it is possible to download information directly into your brain, this is all true. We live in the Matrix, and everything is indeed a holographic projection exactly as described in the film. Yes it's all true, you can download information, but unfortunately, the difference is that we are biological computers and the download speed for languages is still around 1,000 hours and you can't just sit there like a sack of potatoes you have to practice the skills while you are downloading. Perhaps in the future when we all have some form of a chip inserted into our bodies, becoming part machine, these download speeds might be improved.
Be kind to yourself and your teacher with these tips
Decide today that you will stop being lazy and expecting some great teacher to bring your language level up to an advanced level in a few lessons with no effort on your part.
Remember it takes 200 hours to go from one level to the next. So your expectations need to be cut down if you have those expectations.
Remember your teacher was a student and knows what you feel. Treat your teacher as you would treat your coach if you were training for a sport. Treat your teacher with respect and acknowledge the achievements he or she has made.
Always remember that your teacher really does care about you and wants to see you succeed. There is no teacher that doesn't care. Teachers do what they do because they love doing it and if they were only there for the money they would have changed careers.
Remember that being a student is a luxury. You do it because you chose to and no matter how many "reasons" you may have, studying anything is ultimately an individual choice and individual responsibility. As a consequence, the indulgence in this luxury signifies that you should treat language learning as an adventure and as a pleasure and your teacher as someone providing you with a service that is privileged.
A good strategy
As a teacher and student myself for many years, the strategy I would suggest is the one of maximum responsibility. I've taken many courses in my life, and in some sense, it gives you structure and you can put your weight on the teacher in order to pull you forward, but ultimately it is you who must do the work. These days I prefer to study by myself, with no teacher, perhaps because as a teacher I have high expectations for myself and I won't accept laziness. But there are times when I feel perhaps some days I could do with someone to give me a few tips or merely to watch and listen to someone who I admire for being a master at something I want to master too, but I'm not quite there yet.